Friday, December 29, 2006

How Not to Build a Deck

In removing the old doors to the deck the other week, I noticed some spongy spots in the siding at the level of the deck. So I removed one of the boards of the deck, and started scraping at the ledger board. I scraped, then dug, then stopped when I couldn't reach any more with a putty knife and still hadn't found the bottom. Not surprisingly, I decided the ledger board and that piece of siding had to be replaced.

It's not the first repair I've made to the deck. Even with my limited building skills back then, when I bought the house I knew that the deck hadn't been built quite right; for one thing the boards were a little too close together, which meant pine needles and other cruft were going to get stuck. Since then I've replaced one of the joists and a couple of the posts because of rot. So finding this wasn't any big surprise.

I removed the ledger board and a piece of siding, and let things dry out overnight. The ledger board was attached well enough with lag screws, but unfortunately they weren't galvanized, so they'd begun rusting. That's the kind of thing that leads to news stories about 'deck collapses during party, injuring dozens'. The screws let loose, the deck isn't attached to the house, things rack, and off it goes. These screws weren't too bad, but not great, either.

Inspecting things in better light and after it'd dried, I discovered that the rot had spread into the rim joist, too. And then I looked more carefully, and realized some of the missing wood was due to termites, because there were little tunnels and pellets, even into the redwood siding. No live termites, fortunately.

Time to break out the sawzall (actually I used it for removing some of the siding, too) and attack the rotted bits. I finished removing stuff this afternoon, replaced the part of the rim joist, and got part way into re-applying siding.

All this could have been prevented for less than $10, using galvanized lag screws and a little bit of flashing. These days with pressure-treated (PT) wood, you have to be careful about what sort of metal you put next to PT wood, so rather than replace all the joist hangers as well as the ledger board I replaced the it with more redwood.

Supposedly the deck was built by a brother or brother-in-law of one of the former owners, and he built decks, etc. as a profession. (And the materials were paid for using the insurance money from when one of the neighbor's cars rolled down the hill and dented the corner of the house. No, really.) Given the problems I've seen with the deck, I'm really hoping this guy has either learned more or isn't building decks for a living any more. Because this is how not to build a deck.

P.S. Go Bears! Cal beat Texas A&M yesterday quite handily in the Holiday Bowl. Another 10 win season, and co-champs of the Pac-10. I'm sorry you weren't here to see it, Dave. Though I'm sure you watched it from a blue and gold cloud somewhere.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Radiant Heating

Radiant heating. It's become more popular lately, but it's not new, having been around since the Roman Empire. I hadn't included it in the original plans since we already have a nice forced-air furnace, but the more I read about it, the more it makes sense to install some while I've got the floor ripped up. The kitchen currently relies on heat from the occupants and appliances, and whatever comes from the adjacent rooms to stay warm, but we're planning on tile for the floor. It'll still be as warm as now, but will feel cooler because of the tile.
Similarly, the new bathroom will have a tile floor. Katarina gets up early for work, and while a bath mat helps, it'd be a lot more comfortable if a timer-based radiant heat system warmed things up for her on those cold winter mornings. It usually doesn't get that cold here in the SF Bay Area, but we do have the occasional freeze, and we even get snow at our elevation every 5 years or so. Still nothing like my parents' house back in Michigan (though who knows what global warming is going to do to various climates affected by changing ocean currents), but comfortable is comfortable.

The addition is so much better sealed and insulated than the rest of the house that it's been pretty comfortable even though the heating duct isn't connected to the furnace yet. So I don't expect either zone to get that much use compared with the forced air for the whole house, but it's a lot easier to install now than later. I do wonder how California's Title 24 compares with Canada's R2000 standard for the energy part (R2000 also specifies green building techniques, like low VOC paints) and how that compares with what I've built. I know I've exceeded Title 24 needs by anywhere between a little and a lot, but the whole house is only as good as its weakest point in a lot of ways. The fact I've been insulating stuff during the remodel, installing dual-pane windows, etc. helps, but it'll never be as good as the addition.

I've been busy reading up on it on That Home Site! (thanks for the pointer, Azar) and on the Healthy Heating site. That's been one of the fun things about this project -- learning new skills, new techniques and new technologies. Whee!

Saturday, December 16, 2006


We've been having a fair amount of rain lately, so Friday morning I finished installing the new header between the dining room and the living room. But around noon, it started clearing up. I looked at the forecast and the Doppler radar, and it looked good, so I got grabbed a prybar, got out the sawzall and went to town on the old dining room doors.

In the "it no longer surprises me about this house" category, I discovered that the main thing holding the French doors in place was the trim. I had already removed the interior trim, so the first thing I did was remove the exterior trim. I noticed as I pulled the last of it away that one of the upper corners moved. Uh-huh. I ran the sawzall along the top and sides, and didn't meet a lot of resistance, then lowered the doors outward. Upon closer inspection, I discovered that the only thing that had been holding the doors in place that went through the frame were the very tips of the screws through the hinges, and not all of those (hence the upper corner moving when the trim was gone).

I then quickly framed a new section of wall to hold the three windows, put it into place, and slapped some Tyvek over it. Not exactly air tight, but it'll keep the rain and the worst of the wind out. Not bad for 5 or 6 hours work.

Tomorrow is church and running sound for a concert, but next week I'll get the windows in and make the wall a little more weatherproof and a lot more air tight. Assuming the weather isn't too bad, that is.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Back to Work

Yesterday I finally got back to work on the house. I removed the rest of the paneling in the dining room, working carefully so I can reuse the paneling as needed in other parts of the house. It revealed a few more interesting things in the construction of the house.

The complete and utter lack of insulation no longer surprises me, but I found some other reasons why the dining room was always cold before. One was the nice cold well next to the chimney. I'd seen the space before from up in the attic, but I hadn't realized there was just a layer of paneling between it and the living space. The attic is open to the outdoors via roof vents, so that meant a whopping 1/4" of paneling for insulation. What's that, R 0.25 or less? There's a similar little space open to the attic in one of the other corners. Couple those with the general lack of insulation, the mirror butted against the outside wall, the leaky French doors, and it's no wonder the room was cold.

And here, boys and girls, we have a lesson in why you put a header above doors and windows, and why if you use two 2-by pieces, you put them vertically, not stacked. It's harder to see in the photo, but there's a nice downward bow to the 2x4s and the trim below it, about 1/2" or more. This lesson goes double if it's a load-bearing wall (which this is, as the ceiling joists rest on that wall, and indirectly, the roof does as well). Given the span and it being load-bearing, this header really ought to be 4x6 (and will be when I'm done).

The construction of this house is puzzling. Some things like the diagonal bracing show great care and craftsmanship. And other things leave you scratching your head. Of course, I'm sure someone in 50 or 100 years working on the house will wonder some of those same things about my work. Of course, I'm building to current building codes or better, so it will all be solidly built and well-insulated, so probably not so many.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Redux

Part of why moving my office out of the dining room took so long was that there was so much stuff. I took some time to sort through it, and shredded a lot of old documents for recycling and threw away some useless crud. But the best way I've found to get rid of stuff I don't use is Freecycle. It's kind of like a local eBay, but free. You post what you've got, and other people claim it. Or you ask for stuff you need, and people may have it. It's a great way to keep stuff out of the landfill while simultaneously preventing more stuff from being made to replace it. There are now happy new owners of computer speakers, unused printer cartridges from Camron-Stanford House for a printer they no longer have, and some other bits and pieces are awaiting pickup. And I now have a futon for visitors to sit on, and which can serve as a guest bed.

Not surprisingly, I first read about Freecycle over on Treehugger, which is a great site for keeping up with what's new in the world of green and greenish things.

Friday, December 08, 2006

This Blood's For You

The last couple of weeks have been interesting. Not so much the "fun, new and interesting", but more the Chinese curse interesting, "May you live in interesting times." Not surprisingly, work on the house has been sporadic.

An old friend died of cancer of the esophagus. It's hard to believe Dave is gone. He was always enthusiastic about whatever he was doing, whether it was cheering for Cal sports, cursing various ESPN commentators, or randomly calling an operator in Atlanta a few years back when the Braves were in the World Series. (She of course was rooting for the Braves, but thought one of the opposing players had a cute butt. Which of course sent Dave into gales of laughter.) "Joie de vive" only begins to describe him. A golden retriever kind of personality, a Golden Bear, and a heart of gold. Or at least gold plated :-)

Another friend's father died of lung cancer. Amazing it didn't kill him sooner, since he smoked for over 70 years. I never met him, but I feel like I know him a little since I've been helping my friend prepare a video tribute to him. Chinese immigrant. Decorated WWII veteran. Restaurant owner. Loved to cook. Great sense of humor. Loving husband and father.

Our neighbor John died on Monday at the ripe old age of 95. A couple years ago he bought a hybrid Honda Civic because he'd seen our Toyota Prius and I told him how much we loved it and what great mileage it got. Even though age had slowed him down, he always had a smile and up until a couple of months ago walked his little dog.

Recently I received a beautiful gift, a copy of Galen Rowell: A Retrospective by the Sierra Club. I took a number of photo workshops with him, learned a lot, and was inspired by his work. I was planning on a trip to Antarctica on which he was one of the featured leaders, but the ship sank on an earlier cruise in the Pacific*. I took the picture on the left in Yosemite, one of Galen's favorite spots. He and his wife Barbara died several years ago on their way home from one of their many trips. I love the book, but it was a fresh reminder of their passing.
(* In the immortal words of Dave Barry, "I'm not making this up." It hit an uncharted reef, and the captain ran it aground to keep it from sinking completely. The insurance company called it a total loss, and the planned trip was delayed.)

But of course, people die all the time. Civil wars, hunger, disease, murder or just bad luck. It can all make you feel pretty small and helpless sometimes, even (or maybe especially) if you believe in God. So what's a person to do? Appreciate people like it's their last day on earth, because it might be. Give blood -- there's a continual need for it. Because the next life it saves just might be yours.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Break On Through To the Other Side

Last week I made a momentous change. I finished moving my stuff out of the dining room (which is pretty momentous in itself, or at least mountainous) and took down the wall between the existing dining room and its counterpart in the addition. It took a while because I'm going to reuse the cabinets in the basement for storage, and I salvaged the precious 1x12 redwood siding for the bits around the new windows.

But it's done, and now we don't have to go on to the deck to get between the bedroom and the rest of the house. The cats had been using their "secret passage" through the back of the bottom drawer, but they seem to approve of this change, probably because I haven't had the furnace company hook up my new vent for the bedroom, so this allows some heat in the bedroom (besides the solar gain).

I've also started taking the groovy grooved paneling off the walls in the dining room in preparation for putting in windows where the French doors are now. It comes off pretty easily, which is nice, because I'll need some for patching the hallway door that will be moved from the kitchen to the dining room. And it's encouraging for some distant day when I'll install new double-pane windows in the living room and insulate the walls there. Note the festive diagonal bracing between the studs in the "after" picture on the right. I don't know how much strength it adds (certainly not as much as plywood sheathing), but it certainly makes insulating more of a pain.

This week I've been doing some quick exterior painting, because the gutter people are due to come sometime soon. Normally I would wait until everything was done, the whole house repainted, the whole shebang. But we've found in previous wet winters that it's good to have drainage, and to encourage the runoff water to go on its way down the hillside, instead of through the basement. So I painted the fascia where the gutter will be, and painted a bit of the wall where the downspouts will be. Everything will get painted later, but it's a lot easier to paint those now.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Camron-Stanford House

The last couple of weeks have been busy. Given that I'm moving my office from the dining room to our old bedroom, it's no surprise I've spent time drilling holes, pulling wires, and painting and the like. What is surprising is that the work wasn't in our house, but in this little number:

It's Camron-Stanford House, a Victorian house on Lake Merritt. I've been volunteering there for a couple of years doing tech support. Via slow upgrades and a lot of work, the computer system is now in pretty good shape. (The database is still a mess, but that's a whole 'nother can of worms.)

The last weak link has been the Internet connection. It's a historical house, so drilling holes to pull cables or having *gasp* exposed cables are no-nos. So we've been using a wireless setup to connect to one of the law offices upstairs (office rents and renting the house for weddings and other events are how they pay for the upkeep of the house) where the DSL modem is. But given the vintage of the house, it has hecka thick walls (in the basement at least, 8" interior and 12" exterior), fat cast-iron plumbing and radiators, and uses plaster and lath instead of drywall as is done in more modern houses. Those things added up to pretty bad wireless connectivity, so we'd added an external antenna, repeaters, etc. I only occasionally had problems with it, and re-trying always fixed the problem. But the woman who used it to handle e-mail inquiries about renting the house for an event had frequent problems, which meant frequent phone calls to me, which meant frequent increases in my blood pressure. Not to mention an election-time like aversion to answering the phone.

But on my last I-can't-connect-please-come-down-here visit, the lawyer in the office upstairs and I figured out a way I might be able to run a network cable with no exposed cables, and (mostly) using existing holes by following other cables for things like the telephone lines and security system. A quick trip to CompUSA (yrch!) for some cable and home for some tools, and I spent most of the day fishing a Cat5 cable from office to office. I did have to enlarge one hole a little, and I had to cut off a connector to get the cable fished through. So today I re-terminated the cable, tacked it up discretely below a faux beam in the office (and painted it brown to match), and there's now a connection to the DSL modem that is as close to 100% as any can be. Which means fewer calls, and lower blood pressure.

Woohoo! Of course, we've now figured out a possible way to connect one of the problematic 2nd floor offices by fishing a cable through an old fireplace, so my adventures in really old houses is not over... And then there's the graphic design work I do for them, too...

Friday, October 27, 2006


The next goal I've been working towards is clearing out the old bedroom so I can move my office into it out of the dining room. That will allow me to take out the cabinets and take down the wall into the addition.

I knew that we had a mold problem in the old bedroom, but I figured I could deal with that later. However, as I discovered previously, the existing walls are completely uninsulated and lack a proper vapor barrier. Couple that with inadequate heating (there used to be just a floor furnace in the middle of the house, which meant the extremeties got pretty cold), the fact the bedroom is on the north side of the house and shaded partly on the west side, and a large dresser against the wall that kept air from circulating, and well, yrch! The mold problem was worse than I thought -- much worse. More than a quick coat of Kilz would take care of, and more than I wanted to continue breathing.

So this week I've stripped the drywall off, run some new wiring for a nice, properly grounded 20 amp circuit for my computer equipment, and insulated the outside walls. And because there's diagonal bracing inset between the studs, the insulation and attached vapor barrier are more cut up than I'd like so I added a separate vapor barrier, too. Today I'm hanging new drywall and can hopefully have everything taped and mudded by next week. It all goes much more quickly with a simple rectangular wall and not so many windows.

Monday, October 23, 2006

And She's Climbing a Stairway of Sisal...

Not much progress to report. Since moving into the new bedroom, I've been super busy with other stuff like Habitat for Humanity, Oakland Firefighters Random Acts, church media -- the stuff that usually keeps me only a little busy so I have time to work on the house.

I have managed to do some stuff like finally stain and finish the dresser that sat in our old bedroom for a couple years, hang the mirror, and most importantly (from the standpoint of the cats) build a ladder for access to the loft. Katarina and I had been using a stepladder for the time being, but the cats didn't much like the slippery metal under their feet. Rosie because she has no front claws and almost no front toes, and Star because she's "Wuss in Boots". Now we can all use a nice custom-made ladder, with sisal on the steps for gripping with kitty claws (for thems that's got 'em). Star still slides her paws down the side rail one step at a time, but Rosie has become quite comfortable with the ladder, the loft and a few other places we hadn't quite counted on.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

One of the most basic mantras in green living is "reduce, reuse, recycle". Reduce the amount of stuff you use and waste you produce . Reuse as much as you can. Recycle what you can't reuse.

I've been doing my best on this project to do those things, as well as use green building techniques and materials where possible. But it's all relative. If I were really green, I wouldn't be building this addition in the first place, since it's taking gobs of resources relative to a lot of things in the world. Better than most building projects in the U.S., but far from perfect.

Even the green materials are relative. Take the bamboo flooring. It's great, right? We love it, it's durable, it's beautiful, and bamboo grows to a useable size in 3 to 5 years. It even uses low-VOC adhesives to glue the stalks together into a useful width for flooring. What's not to like? Well, for one thing, most of it used for flooring, cabinets, etc. in the U.S. is grown in China. Great, that's where it's native, right? Well, it takes resources to ship it half way around the world. At best it came into the Port of Oakland. Then it was shipped to EcoTimber in Hayward. Then it was shipped most of the way to our house in Oakland. Then hauled up the hill. There, I removed it from the cardboard boxes, and removed the foam insulation between alternate boards (to keep it from scuffing itself in transit), and nailed it into place.

And I got a reminder on the reduce, reuse, recycle mantra recently. From our neighbor's cat, Fritz, of all, er, people. A while back Edis and I hauled a bunch of non-recyclable stuff to the transfer station in Berkeley, and yesterday I moved the rest of the drywall into the dining room, so there's not mounds of stuff in the carport like there used to be. But there's still some junk there: an old tarp; some scraps of wood that have been re-used several times; some trimmings from various bushes in the yard. Fritz decided to forgo the 'recycle' step on some of the lumber scraps in favor of 'reuse'. Cats are pretty darn good at making themselves comfortable, so who can blame him?

Monday, September 25, 2006

Movin' On In

We moved in to the bedroom Saturday, and spent a restful first night in the addition. There's no bathroom yet, and we have to go out on to the deck to get to the rest of the house, but it's a major milestone.

We woke up to a beautiful sunrise, first the earth shadow visible in the sky, then the first light hitting the fog down over the bay. With a tree-lined view, birds chirping, and no other sounds to be heard, it was like waking up in the mountains. Ah...

Thursday, September 21, 2006

We're Not Alone...

Apparently I'm not alone in blogging about my home improvement project. There's an article over at CNN about all sorts of people who blog about their projects, including one guy who's been posting since 1999. Not that it was called blogging then, but still.

With the help of my neighbor Jon, I carried the new front door down from the carport. Being solid wood (unlike our uninsulated, hollow-core existing front door), and for a 2x6 framed wall, it was plenty heavy. After trimming cruft off the edge of the opening, I managed to get it in to place and plumb and square. Yay! I did some other minor stuff today including cleaning up the hallway and new part of the dining room, but the door was the big milestone.


As you can see in the last picture, the bedroom is almost done. I just need to touch up the paint on the baseboard and we're ready to go. That's Rosie inspecting my work and enjoying the sunshine from all the new windows.

I did all the taping and mudding, and the texturing (which was fun, but messy). Katarina did a lot of the painting, and our neighbor Cynthia helped out, too.

We used low odor, no-VOC (volatile organic compounds; part of the stuff that makes smog and makes paints and solvents smell bad and bad for you) that we got at EcoHome Improvement in Berkeley. Great stuff to work with compared to normal latex paint.

I also got the bamboo flooring there, though that was shipped most of the way from EcoTimber in Hayward. I say most of the way because the shipping company they used refused to come up the hill; the driver was worried about damaging his truck on the trees. I think he must just be a bad driver, because there have been bigger trucks than his up Colton and Snake to our neighborhood. I can understand for some of those tiny, twisty streets in upper Rockridge (where I'd be worried about the ability of a fire engine to get through, too), but no go. So I had to load down the VW with a bunch of bamboo flooring after meeting him in the village, and slowly wind my way up the hill.

Friday, September 01, 2006


I'm glad August is over. You may have noticed a lack of posts lately. Well, yeah. So here's the thing about that...

Much of August has been spent with family in various activities. Santa Barbara with Katarina's side of the family, Twain Harte and the Bay Area with my side, the usual mixture of non-profit work, media for church, et al, and well, work on the addition hasn't been blazingly fast. As much as I love my family, I'm not a big people person, so I'm glad it's over for now.

But work has been progressing. Katarina and I are painting the bedroom now. It's all primed, and the ceiling is painted. The no VOC, low odor paints, in yummy colors have been a joy to work with. I promise to post more pictures soon.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Green Building

As I've written about before, we're trying to make the addition and remodel as 'green' as possible. Better for the environment, better for us living in it. There's an interesting column over at SFGate about how some of the aspects of green building make for happier, healthier, smarter people, from grade schools to office buildings to hospitals. Relying on natural light and where possible, natural ventilation, makes sense for yet another set of reasons. Go Green!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


Regular readers of DIY Insanity will not be surprised to hear that I haven't been making as rapid of progress as I'd hoped. I'm almost done with the sheetrock on the walls, but I'll still need to tape and mud the seams after that. My sister-in-law Emmie was kind enough to come help again, and brought her youngest daughter, Kristina. They both came on the Mexico Mission trip this year, along with Emmie's middle daughter. I knew from the trip that Kristina is a hard worker, and listens well (at least for this kind of stuff). I certainly didn't do those things at age 11.

With their help we got the smaller loft sheetrocked, a bunch more sheetrock moved down from the carport, and various other pieces done as well. Thanks, Emmie and Kristina!

Although it will be a while before I can install it, I went ahead and bought the ceiling fan that Katarina and had picked out. I'm glad I did, because in reading the instructions, I found out it expects a single power line, not separate ones for the light vs. the fan. So I took out the 3-gang box that had space for a dimmer switch for the fan, and replaced it with a 2-gang box and rewired the switches. Most of the functionality is controlled via a remote control.

Everything seems to have remotes these days. Katarina listened to a presentation by the ergonomics people at Google, where she works. And in talking to her afterwards, I realized that some of my occasional back and shoulder pains, not to mention my carpal tunnel syndrome, are in large part due to my mouse being too far to the right because of the arrow keys and numeric keypad at the right side of the keyboard. So today I looked at a keyboard that has a separate numeric keypad so my mouse can sit further left and I don't reach so far right. The keypad is separate, and the whole thing is wireless besides. And the numeric keypad? It has a little LCD display at the top, and can be used as a remote for playing music on your PC.

Sunday, July 02, 2006


I received an email from an old friend in Switzerland who's been reading DIY Insanity. Which reminded me I haven't posted in a while. Not for lack of progress to report on, though. Besides getting the plumbing (successfully) reinspected and finishing up odds and ends, I brought home a large load of insulation. The Golf has faithfully brought home large loads of stuff, but this would have been several trips worth in it. And given the price of gas these days, delivery prices are pretty high. So I rented a U-Haul truck (with much less drama than last time), and Edis and I unloaded the insulation then loaded up the truck and moved to up the truck with waste from the construction and took it to the dump. There isn't that much, but again more than the Golf would take in several trips.

Alas, the faithful Golf wasn't so faithful today. Kat was driving home and it died in the middle of an intersection. It's now at a repair shop waiting for them to open.

I have most of the insulation installed (R-19 in the walls, except the 4" west wall, which has R-13; R-50 in the attic). I'll be hanging drywall on the walls this week, and barring too many interruptions, probably painting next week. Wahoo!

Sunday, June 11, 2006


One of the latest fads in forums are userbars. They're nothing more than little graphics to stick in people's signatures to show things they're interested in, from music to cars to games they play. They look pretty, but they're almost completely useless. So of course they're spreading like wildfire.

Besides working on the minor bits of plumbing and changing the bedroom door, I had Edis work with me on the ceiling drywall. Not only is drywall on the ceiling in a more awkward spot for lifting and fastening, it's also normally 5/8" thick instead of 1/2" thick, and so is that much heavier. But one splurge I made in purchases for the addition was a drywall lift. It's mechanically a pretty simple thing, but it makes life much, much easier than trying to apply drywall to a ceiling by brute force as I've done countless times at Habitat. When I'm done with the drywall lift, I plan to donate it to East Bay Habitat. Or if they don't want to accept it for some reason, keep it and take it with me any times I work with drywall when volunteering there in the future. After using it for a day, I'm never going back to the old way.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Two Out of Three Ain't Bad

Well, I passed two out of the three inspections today: electrical and framing. For plumbing, I need to cover the corners of the shower threshold, and cover any staples in the top of the threshold. But the bigger thing is that the vent for the sink drain needs to be least 6" above the level of the sink before it goes horizontal. It's doable to change, but it'll be some work. I remember reading about that somewhere, but obviously didn't remember that when I was installing the DWV pipes.

The more significant but easier change is that we probably won't be able to have the pocket door on the steps. Even though the door doesn't swing, the building code seems to say that we'd need a 36" landing on either side. Moving it back a little would get the hallway side OK, but that plus 36" on the other side doesn't work. It will be easy enough to put a swinging door at the top. And the inspector wasn't 100% sure as the code doesn't talk about a pocket door in this case, and said I could talk with the code check people and see if they'd OK it as-is. It's my fault for not re-doing the plans completely when I changed the bathroom to the bedroom level -- it probably would have been caught during code check before if I had. And better it's caught now than in a month when everything has drywall.

But everything else is OK, and I can put drywall on the ceiling, which means I can move forward with insulation. And more research is needed on the door. I need to follow the building code, but it'd be nice to have the pocket door as planned.

Friday, June 02, 2006

The Water Goes Woooosh!

I didn't get the inspection this week...but it's scheduled for Monday and I'm ready to go. However, when I called to schedule the inspection, I found out my electrical permit had expired, because I hadn't had any inspections done on the electrical yet (there having been no electrical to do before there were walls). So I had to run down to the permit office and get the permit extended, which cost about $67, and took about 67 minutes of waiting.

I ran the 4-3 gauge wire from the main panel to the new sub-panel, and it was a lot of work. Each part of the wire that size is basically 7 strands of 14 or 12 gauge wire twisted around each other, so it's like wrestling with 7 pieces of Romex at the same time. Heavy and not very flexible to say the least. But after running it and hooking up the sub-panel this afternoon, I flipped the appropriate circuit breakers and brought the sub-panel up. So far so good--no sparks or flames, for example. I tried each of the 4 new circuits in turn, and everything worked except one of the loft lights, until I got to the circuit for the outdoor lighting. I suspect the light fixture above the front door, but we'll see tomorrow.

The DWV pipes have been ready to go for a bit, and this week I put in the shower pan liner. The drain is plugged for testing, and it's held water for a couple days with no leaks. I plugged the toilet and sink drains, and put another plug just above where the new DWV pipes tie into the existing, and with Kat's help filled it from the roof to make sure the pipes above the floor level don't leak (below floor level had been tested earlier).

It held water all day with no problems, but I didn't want to leave the pressure on it all weekend (it only has to hold for 10 minutes for the inspection). So I let air out of the bottom plug to let the water out, and woooosh! Most of it went down the drain as intended, but the partially deflated plug got pushed down by the water, and a lot came up out of the clean out. It was refreshing, to say the least. Unfortunately, the plug got turned upside down, so I had to stab it to let the rest of the air out and get it out of the drain. Which means I need another for the inspection.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Snap, Plop and Roll

Despite various interruptions, I'm continuing to make progress. I just need to run a wire to the subpanel and put down the shower liner, and I'm ready for the next inspection.

The most recent task was connecting the new DWV (drain waste vent, aka sewer) pipes to the existing ones. The new ones are ABS plastic, but the existing ones are cast-iron pipe. A quick attempt with the Sawzall revealed that wasn't going to work to cut the cast-iron pipe, so I rented a snap cutter that's designed for it. I'd never used one before, but it turned out to be very easy. Put the chain around the pipe, tighten a little and score the surface, then tighten the rest of the way and *snap*. It took me less than 5 minutes for the two cuts needed, significantly less than the time to and from the rental place. And it wasn't even a stinky job.

And even though I sweated around 25 joints for the plumbing (mostly for the shower, since it has extra bends to go around the higher foundation at the side of the addition) with no problems, I don't think I'll be running out to become a plumber any time soon. Too many of the tasks that go with the job are stinky, even if the pay is good.

Barring an unusual number of interruptions, I'll get the next inspection this week. After that it's insulation, drywall, flooring, trim, paint and I'm done! OK, so that's still a lot of work. And when I finish that I get to start on the kitchen...ah, well. One step at a time.

Monday, May 15, 2006

We're Here! We're Here!

I'm finally over my cold, and back at work on the house. Today I placed the cement for the shower floor. Getting cement level and smooth is fairly easy. Getting it not level so the water flows down the drain from everywhere is a little harder. I checked the slope a little while ago now that the cement is hard enough to put a level on, and it looks good...down towards the drain from all sides. Huzzah!

I also installed a coax cable for cable TV (not that we have cable...or even watch that much broadcast TV, but it's easier to run a cable now than later) and connected another of the runs to the new electrical sub-panel. Both of those required crawling under the addition to pull the wires. It's at this time that I wish we'd dug out more from under the addition so crawling under was easier. Of course, there were good reasons not to besides the labor involved, but I can still wish.

And just because it was easy and didn't require much crawling under the house, I cut a hole for the vent and hooked up the heating duct. It's still not connected to the furnace on the other end, but fortunately it appears that winter has finally left us, so I won't be needing that any time soon. Huzzah, indeed.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

That's Why...

Attached is a picture of why I took most of a week off from working on the house, church media, etc. That's about how happy Jimmy is at any given moment -- he's an incredibly cheerful little guy.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Hello, I Must Be Going...

Just a quick hello before I zoom off again. I got back Saturday afternoon from our annual Mexico mission trip to build a house for a family near Tijuana. A great trip, and the best house we've built so far, even though we had a young, inexperienced group. And we even had time to do some extras like build steps and planters and put in some flowers, as well as buy the family some paint for when the stucco is dry.

Tomorrow I'm off to Michigan to visit family, and in particular see my youngest nephew who's turning 1 on Friday. Back next week to actually work on the addition again...needless to say I haven't made much progress on it in the last couple weeks.

Monday, April 10, 2006


Given the recent rains, I've decided to refocus my efforts on a new project, shown at the left. Though I may have problems getting building permits for it... Actually it's not raining right now, and during the breaks in the rain over the last several days I've managed to finish the siding except for a little bit above the front door, and the non v-rustic siding around the doors to help disguise the difference between the old 1x12+1x6 and the new 1x10+1x6. Except for the trim, paint, and gutters, it's looking pretty close to the final form on the outside. Oh, and the roof, assuming I find something to look like the cement shake on the old roof. And of course, the inside has a long ways to go yet.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

I Hate Technology

Hello, fine readers! I know of DIY Insanity readers all over the SF Bay Area (hi Pete, Jim, Melissa, John, et al), Michigan (hi Paula, Dave, Jimmy, Tim), Florida (hi Mom and Dad), Indiana (hi Liz and Paul) and Germany (hi Kirsten, when you finally make it onto the computer). Drop a line if you're reading this from someplace I didn't list. Or even someplace I did.

Sorry for the lack of updates. This past week has been a blur. Largely a rain-soaked, exhausted blur. I've done some work on the house, but given the rain, it's all been electrical work indoors. I know with some creativity I could take some interesting pictures of the work, but for the most part, electrical doesn't make for very intriguing photos.

I can't complain too much about the weather. Despite the frequent rains here, so far there's been pretty minimal damage. Which can't be said for the areas in Europe that are flooded, the areas in Arkansas that got flattened by tornadoes, or the people in Mississippi, Louisiana and elsewhere that got flooded and flattened by hurricanes and still haven't been able to rebuild.

Oh, Thursday I got a panicked email from my friend that runs Oakland Firefighters Random Acts, a local non-profit I do tech support and graphics for. Saturday was their big fund-raiser, a dinner/dance/auction/awards ceremony. Not only was the firefighter (now arson investigator) who normally creates the slide shows to go with the awards part not able to create them this year, she wasn't going to be able to run the video projector during the ceremony, either. I'd already volunteered to take pictures again so I planned to be there, but this was more important. They'd find someone else to take pictures.

It was also a lot more work and not much time to do it in. Cindy and I worked much of the day and into the night Thursday selecting photos and creating slides. After a brief break on Friday for lunch and a tour at the Scharffen Berger Chocolate factory in Berkeley with Katarina to celebrate my birthday, I was back at it. It was pretty draining -- not just the staying up late part, but part of what I was doing was creating slide shows to go along with talks by members of the Urban Search and Rescue team (USAR4) that went to Mississipi and the OFD Swift Water Rescue team that went to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina hit. I lost track of how many pictures of the devastation and misery I looked at -- ugh. I can only imagine what it was like to experience first-hand (USAR4 also worked at Ground Zero for the WTC).

But Random Acts is about helping people and creating positive memories for firefighters. Since we didn't want the slide shows to be total downers, much of what we showed was of the team members, or the team members rescuing people. But there were an awful lot of other pictures to sort through.

Certainly other parts of the show were more positive: a group of firefighters that rented a truck and filled it with water, food, a generator and other needed items and drove it day and night to get to the devastated town in Mississippi where a cousin of one the firefighters lived. All the people and companies who worked together to restore the Van Pelt open-air fire engine to be used for Random Acts like bringing Santa to see children who are in the hospital. The Citizen Hero of the year, a woman who's been working with Special Olympics for 30 years. New Random Acts programs starting up in Oregon and Florida. All the different Random Acts that Oakland Firefighters have made happen in the last year.

But it almost happened that all of that happened without pictures. Friday I got a borrowed laptop to use for the show, and Saturday morning pictures of from past Special Olympics to create a show for the Citizen Hero award. But the laptop seemed kind of sluggish, and got more so as I worked on things backstage while setup for the rest of the program was going on. It eventually reached the point where I wasn't sure if it would run for the show, so I got another laptop loaned by a firefighter. It ran a lot more quickly, and I was able to get it to configure itself and recognize the projector as a second video screen. That makes running Powerpoint a lot easier, as you can do more than go forward and backward in a show. But then the laptop started crashing (ah, the joys of Windows 98). I tried a 3rd laptop loaned by yet another firefighter. I went home and got a blank CD-R and a blank floppy (amazingly, both the 2nd and 3rd laptops have floppy drives), but the CD writer on the 2nd one wouldn't work, nor would the floppy drive on the 3rd one. In any event, I couldn't get the 3rd laptop to recognize the video projector. I switched back to the second laptop, but it took me the better part of an hour to get it recognize the video projector at all, never mind as a second screen. I almost switched to a 4th laptop (thanks, Brian), but I realized I had no way of getting my changes from the second laptop to it. And more significantly, I was out of time -- the show was about to start.

The show did go on, minus the Special Olympics pictures. Everything else made it as far as I know, though I ended up having to switch laptops mid-stream to be able to show pictures of past Citizen Heros. Fortunately there was a DVD playing right before it, so the change over was pretty seamless. But by the end of the night, I was ready to fling all the laptops off a building somewhere. Sometimes I hate technology.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Hooray for Geometry!

Last Saturday we did a training session for the youth group going on the Mexico mission trip. Since we had a bunch of youth graduate last year, the group is smaller than it's been for a while, so we're allowing 8th graders to go on the trip, too. We've got a bigger group going to Mexico than last year, but overall younger and less experienced. As always, should be fun but interesting. And tiring for me, both physically and mentally. It's only a 6 day trip, 2 of those days traveling, and we build the house in 3 1/2. It's a lot simpler than houses here: slab foundation, roll roofing, no electrical, plumbing, wall sheathing, insulation or drywall. But it's all by hand, including mixing the concrete. One of the most tiring parts for me is that I'm with people all the time -- tough for an introvert.

This week I've been working on the electrical and siding. The electrical is pretty simple, though 3-way switches are a bit tricky, and a 3-way switch with 2 lights between and the fewest wires is like spaghetti. I can't imagine what 3 lights would be like (which would be required for the lights in the lofts...) Fortunately there's an easier way to do it, by wiring it as you would for a single light between two 3-way switches, and then connecting the lights together with a normal 2-wire cable. It 'wastes' a wire, but it's a whole lot easier to do and be confident of no mistakes.

The other challenge this week was putting siding on the west wall. I finished up the east wall with its gable end, and moved to the east wall when I had a full day of good weather. The west wall has a gable above (5:12 pitch roof), a gable below (5:12 on one side, 3:12 or so on the other) and a round window. I was trying to figure out how to mark the curve on each board to match the window. I could measure the distance of the top and bottom from the other end of the board, but how to mark the curve? I knew I could cut a big piece of cardboard the radius of the window and use that, but I didn't have any big pieces of cardboard I could cut up. So I remembered something from geometry class lo those many (many) years ago. Given two points on a circle and the radius, you can find the center of the circle. From there, it's easy to draw an arc along part of the circle as needed:

Thursday, March 16, 2006


It hasn't been all trips to and from Home Depot this week. I've been making progress on the siding as the weather permits, and working on the electrical and plumbing when it doesn't. I've got siding on the south wall (with hecka windows) and 3/4ths the east wall (gable end). I'd like to think the north and west walls will go faster, but I know better. They both have round windows in them, and the west wall has gables to match above and below (for the cricket on the existing house). The different color boards are because I painted a few for my test of 1x6+1x10 vs. 1x6+1x12 for the siding. And of course there's still trim around the windows and on the corners to do, but it's looking pretty good so far.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Truth in Advertising?

I returned to Home Depot today after my biweekly trip to the Red Cross for apheresis. And I now have proof that customer service is a foreign concept there. I went to the services desk (my other choices being a regular register, the returns desk, or contractor services). I first asked how I should handle the unpaid-for item (take another up to the register, which is what I figured.) I then said I'd like to make a complaint. After listening to me, the woman said "well, they have to restock." I repeated the part about "but they don't need to make part of the store inaccessible for 45 minutes or more to do it." Ponder. "There's an 800 customer service number. I'll write it down for you." Uh-huh. I guess they don't have any customer service here.

Taking another service panel to a register caused some confusion. I explained about it not being scanned yesterday, the security guard not noticing (a 2 square foot cardboard box?!?) and that I wanted to pay for it. OK. Scan the UPC, swipe the credit card, fail to check ID (whoops!) to make sure I was the owner of the card, and I'm out of there, right? "Don't forget your item!" Huh? I thought at first she was joking. So I explained again, finishing with "I got one yesterday, but they didn't charge for it. This balances things. Thanks!" I still think she thought I was from another planet or something.

Maybe the honesty was disorienting. Given the state of things in Washington, D.C., and corporate boardrooms around the world, I can understand that confusion. The whole thing made me think of the movie Paper Moon, where Ryan O'Neal runs a little scam swapping ones and fives and tens with a rapid patter about getting change and ending up with more money than he started. Tatum O'Neal catches on quickly and does the same thing herself when given a chance. Great movie, by the way. If you've got Netflix (which does have good customer service, in my experience), add it to your queue. And no, while I could have, I did not bring home the second breaker panel.

The good news is I finally found out where they have breakers on display and for sale in the store. At the newly constructed merchandise pickup window near the registers. Oh, there are a few attached to a display back near the breaker panels (and behind a sign, so you have to be 20 feet back to see them) where you might expect to find them, but the rest are mysteriously at the pickup window at the front of the store. If there's a sign indicating that back in the electrical section, it's well-hidden, too.

Monday, March 13, 2006


I dropped Kat off at the MacArthur BART station this morning, and headed over to Home Depot for one of my frequent visits. I have, how shall I put it, "limited expectations" for shopping at Home Depot. Large stores; relatively few employees with limited training and expertise (and not that well paid to boot); the demands of a board of directors and shareholders that comes with being a public company to keep costs down and keep profitability as high as possible. It all adds up to limited expectations. I've done a lot of my buying at Economy Lumber (most of the framing materials) and Piedmont Lumber (drywall, house wrap, etc.), but for plumbing, electrical, and various tools, Home Depot is frequently the best bet for combination of selection and low price.

So I've been to various SF Bay Area Home Depots a lot. I'm used to searches for the right sized cart for whatever I need to get that trip (note to corporate HQ: the Home Depot in Pleasanton has all the carts). I'm used to no help available if I need it (I've even been asked for help by other people shopping there, and sometimes know more about the products they have than some of the employees). I'm used to waiting in the checkout line. I haven't always been, but these days I'm a fairly patient person.

But today they found a new way to lower my expectations further and severely test my patience. The main item I wanted to get today was a shower drain. As part of the rough plumbing inspection, I need to have the shower pan completed and the drain installed. So I was perusing the options available in one of the plumbing aisles and an employee told me they needed to close the aisle to bring a forklift in. As I was going to be a while deciding, I figured I could wait 5 minutes and come back.

I came back in 5 minutes. Still closed. I perused the kitchen cabinets and came back. Still closed. I perused the shower heads and handles available and came back. Still closed. I waited for a bit with some others, figuring they'd have to be done soon, or at least take a break for customers to get to the products in that aisle, but no luck. I perused the tile saws (between the shower, bathroom floor, thermal mass for solar, and probably the kitchen, there will be a lot of tile in the addition and remodel, though area-wise most of the flooring will be bamboo) and came back. Still closed. I watched (and listened to; and I quote: "$#!*@%!!") other customers leave. I watched another customer go in and get what they needed while the forklift was making another run down to the end of the aisle.

I finally gave up, and the next time the forklift was gone, I went in to get what I needed. An employee made a dismissive gesture, and I almost lost it. I pointed out that I'd been there all morning, and he said "so have I!" (um, yeah, but you, well, work here). His co-worker recognized my simmering anger and let me get what I needed. I was almost ready to sit down in the aisle and ask to talk to the manager.

I understand they need to restock the shelves or get a large item, and that means closing an aisle temporarily. But God help any pros who are in buying stuff all the time, and get stuck waiting to get to the plumbing aisle. Or anybody who expected to run in and get an item or two in 15 minutes or less.

To keep things interesting, I got in a line near the end of the aisle; it looked about the same as the line at any of the other aisles. Turns out it was a new cashier. I mean new. I was her second customer, and her sort-of-trainer had some problem with the first register she was at, and moved her to another. So checkout didn't go particularly quickly, especially since her sort-of-trainer got her signed in to the new register and then promptly disappeared. I didn't mind that part, though. It certainly wasn't this woman's fault that she'd been given almost no training and set adrift to fend for herself. But it did add a certain je ne sais quoi to the experience.

Apparently my low expectations aren't unique. There's even a website, A lot of that site is about their policies regarding some of the wood they sell (i.e., old growth, rain forest species, etc.), but a quick Google search on that lovely phrase turns up 677,000 hits. Eek! I imagine most large corporations have a or the like these days -- it's far too cheap and easy for people to create a website and register a domain name, and that includes people with a grudge (In case you're wondering, isn't registered, nor the obvious misspelling,

The final straw was when I got home. It was two hours since I'd left home with Kat, and I looked at the receipt for an exchange item from the beginning of the morning (I decided to get a larger electrical panel, since code means I'll have at least 8 circuits in the new sub-panel) to see just how long I'd waited in the plumbing aisle. It was 48 minutes. But (drumroll please!) ... I noticed the new cashier hadn't included the new electrical panel in the total. I may have inadvertently helped with that, as she'd gotten stuck on one screen during the checkout, and I helpfully got her out of it. And at the Emeryville and Oakland Home Depots, they have security guards to check your receipt against what you carry out the door, and they didn't notice the large cardboard box in my cart that wasn't listed on the receipt. Those of you who know me probably are realizing that as tempting as it was to just say nothing, the mistake meant a return trip to Home Depot to straighten it out.

I couldn't face it today. So I had lunch with my good friend Jim "Grampa" Kirkpatrick at Pyramid Brewhouse ('I liked the beer so much, I bought the company!' Well, a small part of it in the form of stock) and went and bought some new XLR microphone cables for church from my friend Paul (no, not in the diamond business, he's in the sound business), and got nothing done on the house today. I'll straighten out the mess tomorrow after my apheresis donation at the Red Cross. But thanks Jim and Paul, for listening to me vent and reminding me there's more important stuff in life than worrying about an experience like this. And thank God for beer.

"Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." -- Benjamin Franklin.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

After a stretch of particularly mild weather, we've been having rather unusual weather for the SF Bay Area. It's not unheard of to get some snow on the local peaks (the peak of Mt. Diablo is 3849 feet; Mt. Hamilton east of San Jose is over 4200 feet) every once in a while. We've even gotten snow here a couple times at about 1100 feet over the 12 years I've lived in Oakland. But this set of storms has had thunder and lightning, hail, and snow as low as 500 feet (resulting in a nasty accident over in Marin). Weird stuff. We've gotten mostly rain, but some hail and snow and freezing rain, too. Sonny Eliot probably would call it snail, or maybe freezing snail. Sleet, really ("neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow, nor dark of night..."). But sleet isn't a word you hear much in California. It just doesn't do that very often here.

Sonny Eliot was a TV weatherman back in Michigan when I was growing up, and used to scrawl smooshed-together words on his blue and green chalkboard of Michigan as part of the weather report. Snow + hail = snail. I'm not sure how accurate his forecasts were back then, before Doppler radar and sophisticated computer models, but he certainly entertained folks. I Googled for him, expecting he'd passed away, but apparently he's still doing weather reports on the radio back in Detroit. What I didn't know back then is that he was a B-24 pilot during WWII, was shot down, and spent time in a POW camp. Funny the things you never know about people.

Like one of our neighbors. He's house- and cat-sitting for one our neighbors, and we've talked a few times. Very interesting guy, I thought. Polish emigrant, raised in Uruguay, well travelled, diverse background and interests. He even skied as a youth in Bariloche, an odd resort town in the Argentine Andes. (Amazingly beautiful area, by the way, but Bariloche is very touristy these days.) Katarina and I visited there during our trip to Argentina a number of years back, but most people have never heard of it. During our most recent conversation, I found out he spent several years bicycling around the world. He showed me a scrapbook with newspaper articles from all over about his trip. Part of his claim to fame was that he was a pioneer in mobile computing. He had a bunch of free gear from companies, including an HP 100LX, a modem, one of the first civilian hand-held GPS units, and kept connected even in parts of the world that hadn't seen the Internet yet. All that plus camping and cycling gear, strapped to a bike.

The topic came up during a conversation about our backgrounds. I hate the question "what do you do?", as if people were defined solely by their job. I probably hate the question in part because I can't easily answer it. I create media for our church. I run audio for the worship team on Sundays. I volunteer with a number of different non-profits, mostly doing tech stuff and some photography. I spend much of my week working on the addition to the house. But I don't have a "job" per se. But even if I did, it wouldn't be who I am, any more than Katarina is a technical writer. But Roberto can't easily answer the question either (and with a non-U.S. background, finds the question odd as people in much of the rest of the world do), which is probably why we're getting along so well.

Back when he was cycling around the globe with gadgets in the early 1990's, I was working at Geoworks helping create some of them (the Casio Zoomer, the HP Omnigo, and similar products from Toshiba, Nokia, and others). Back then I was largely defined by my job. Driven by it. I throughly loved what I did for most of the 9 years I was at Geoworks, but as the company was changing, so was I. Which is why I went from a high-paying profession to working in a brew pub (actually a brew-on-premises + brew pub, which is sadly out of business, so my time there was pretty short -- great job benefits though!), and spending most of my time working with non-profits. I felt there were better ways to spend my time and energy than "making toys for rich people" and trying to acquire more money and more stuff and more titles...

Oh, right. The addition. It's coming along nicely. During breaks in the weather, I've been putting on the siding. It goes pretty quickly except around windows, and I designed the addition with a lot of them. So overall it doesn't really go that quickly. When it's raining I work on the rough electrical and plumbing indoors. I figure another couple weeks and I'll be ready for the next inspections (rough electrical, rough plumbing, and final framing). Once I pass those, I'm in the home stretch -- insulation, drywall, flooring, plumbing fixtures. Still a lot of work to do, but it looks and feels like a house now.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Glass Block and Escutcheons

Since the last post, I've been installing the glass block by the front door and in the shower, running wires and placing boxes for the rough electrical, and today Kat helped me move the massive new back door down from the carport and install it.

The glass block was more of pain (no, not pane, you punsters) to install than I figured, because as with a lot of things, the edges are more difficult. Well, in a narrow window (1x8 blocks on either side of the front door) or a small window (3x3 blocks for the shower window), almost everything is an edge. The last row is the hardest, because there's not much clearance, and you need to get the last block in without scraping off the mortar from the top of the row below. But I managed. And it looks pretty good, I think.

Installing the rough electrical has been going pretty smoothly. But with a fair number of lights and switches, and NEC code requiring an outlet every 6' in a bedroom, there's a lot of boxes and a lot of segments of wire. And then there's the whole 3-way switch thing...

Today was fun, though. The current back door is a pair of 5-light French doors, strangely installed (they open outward, so the hinges are on the outside, and they're not recessed but flush with the siding), and in bad shape. But they do fit the overall design of the house. When I changed one of the windows in Kat's office into a door, I got a 5-light door of basically the same design.

So when I originally designed the new back door, I chose another 5-light door of the same design. It seemed like it would be a tight fit for opening and not hitting a wall, but would work. When I got around to actually framing things, it became clear that even if a swinging would fit, it would be a tight enough fit that it would be less than ideal. So I found some sliding doors that would fit, and ordered them with the same 5-light design. Being custom, they cost a bundle, and with a solid wood frame, dual-pane, and a metal covering on the outside, they weigh a ton. I figured I'd have to get a bunch of people, and do something like I did with the roof trusses -- take them next door, and instead of passing them over to the roof, ease them down the hill to the back of the house.

Instead, at Kat's suggestion I removed the sliding part of the door and carried it down, then Kat helped me move the rest down the steps (with several stops to rest) and through the addition to the back. Then we moved the siding which I've been stacking in the entry and dining room area, and installed the new back door.

It looks beautiful. It matches the existing one quite well, though is more functional, since it slides so we can have a screen, and not use up space next to it inside or out. And with more glass area than the original design of a single swinging door, it lets more light hit the thermal mass for passive solar.

The existing back door will become a wall, but with 3 large casement windows that overlook the deck and include some of our SF Bay view. Not a million-dollar 3-bridge view, but it'll be nice enough for us and then some.

Thursday, February 23, 2006